In Emilia-Romagna, Christmas and Christmastime festivities are generally a fantastic opportunity to renew ties with the region’s culinary traditions. In the warm, inviting ambiance of twinkling Christmas lights, the dishes that make up a traditional Christmas feast will be brought to the table one after another, usually prepared by the queen of the house and the kitchen, known in local dialect as the rezdora (Emilia), arzdåura (Bologna) or arzdora/azdora (Romagna).
The most common Christmastime pasta dishes in Emilia-Romagna are undoubtedly tortellini, ring shapes of fresh egg pasta filled with traditional Bologna meat, usually served in a broth. Every corner of the region has its own speciality: cappelletti pasta from Romagna are filled with cheese and served in a rich meat ragù sauce, whilst the most classic dish from Parma is anolini pasta made with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Cappelletti are also served at Christmas lunch in Reggio Emilia, but unlike the Romagna version, these are filled with meat.
Meat main courses
Whilst fresh stuffed egg pasta takes the leading role in the first course, traditional meat-based second courses in Emilia-Romagna are fronted by bollito, a stew of different cuts of meat simmered in broth and served with an array of different sauces.
These sauces range from salsa verde in the Reggio Emilia province, made with parsley, eggs, celery and onion, to Ravenna’s salsa verde di melanzane, which combines aubergines, anchovies and capers, to the sweet and sour pairing with mustard. Modena’s peasantry would serve this stewed meat broth with a sauce made with beetroot, onions and carrot.
At the end of the meal, when you feel as though you can eat no more, it's time to move on to dessert.
As with many regions in Italy, Emilia-Romagna’s Christmastime feast would not be the same without the classic Italian sweet bread, panettone, but there are also many other traditional, tasty and flavourful sweets to try.
Take, for example, Modena's Christmas sweet bread that is shiny brown in colour, or panone from Bologna, which combines chocolate with candied fruit, or Ferrara’s chocolate-covered pampepato, which set themselves apart from other Christmas sweet treats, packed with flavour and a rich array of ingredients.
Lastly, the last course you will be served in Modena and Reggio Emilia area will be baked or fried tortelli di Natale, traditional Christmas pastries filled with egg cream, jam or Christmas pesto, which is made with jam, chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, ground coffee, rum or Sassolino liqueur, similar to mincemeat.